By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Into our most permissively louche South Florida social world, amid a pack of what passes for society columnists too slack to attend half the events they write about, has emerged an ugly strain of homophobia along with its retro- (not in a good way) journalistic cousin, "sexual-orientation speculation." Surely you remember what a boon this practice was for the careers of, say, Jodie Foster and George Michael.
This trend has reared its viper's head on two Miami-based gossip blogs, one well established, one anonymous.
For the past several weeks, Lesley Abravanel's Scene in the Tropics blog on the Miami Herald's Website has primarily concerned itself with jokes, if that's what they are, about the unlikely summer friendship of Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong. The pair has been palling around South Beach night spots, jogging together, and so on. Noting a McConaughey-Armstrong outing, Abravanel, on August 23, posted a comment: "Matt and Lance were at Snatch again last night.... Back Door Bamby, where they partied diligently on Monday night, is 60 percent gay and 40 percent hetero. You do the math."
Then, the following day, Abravanel mused again on the has-been athlete/actor duo's appearance at a fashion show. The post was titled "I Wish I Could Quit Them," a reference to a signature line from Brokeback Mountain.
Perhaps the Herald's new owners will next resurrect the phrase "confirmed bachelor" from the near-extinct vocabulary of the veiled. Whatever.
Real Wyoming-style viciousness has become the calling card of a newer, anonymous celebrity-stalker blog, thedirtmiami.com. After launching in early August with tsk-tsking over Paris Hilton and Scott Storch, the site lit out on a bizarre, and bizarrely personal, series of attacks on Nick D'Annunzio and Tara Solomon, the principals of public relations firm Tara, Ink.
D'Annunzio was arrested August 10 and charged with cocaine possession following a birthday party in Miami Beach. This proved a flashpoint for thedirtmiami's authors, who nine days later asserted D'Annunzio was "a two-bit coke head [sic] douchebag publicist." (D'Annunzio's response: "I've faced bullies before; they don't scare me.")
What, possibly, could be the motivation for anonymously posting smack comments such as: "Nicky boy, please ride your fifteen minutes of psuedo [sic] fame by coming out of the closet already.... Everyone knows you are gayer than gay. Who else but a queen could put up with the former Queen of the Night?" adding, "We can't wait to see what the ... press does with this one! For all of öNick's friends,' you can kiss our Internet asses. We dare you to defend his birthday bust now...."
As The Bitch is fond of saying: um, okay.
So who is thedirtmiami.com and why all the despicable antics? Let's look at our suspects.
It's not Abravanel. She's been out of town most of the summer, and she is, seemingly, mostly on good terms with Tara, Ink. "I thought you were writing for [thedirtmiami.com]!" Abravanel exclaimed to The Bitch. "Everyone thinks everyone else is doing it. Very interesting."
She added, "I find it highly entertaining hearsay about our favorite local characters. I'll be curious to see if once the people doing the site are exposed, if they'll have the balls to keep it up or if they are banking on anonymity so they aren't run out of town!"
The Website's somewhat obfuscated registration is linked to a guy named Jason Muslin, a Chicago college student who promotes parties on the side and has worked on campaigns for the various iterations of B.E.D. and some other floating fetes in Miami Beach. Those fetes put The Bitch in mind of Justin Levine and Perry Sasson (themselves the subject of a profile in New Times ["Social Promotion," April 21, 2005]. Sasson and Levine are devout Orthodox Jews and seriously book-hitting UM students who just happened to have discovered a lucrative after-school business delivering pretty girls to grizzled, wealthy club owners and goers). Their joint venture, called Empire Events, has an enviable roster of club clients and luxury providers.
But Levine, a glib wordsmith, denies any connection. "Several people have approached me asking if I was the writer.... I can assure you that most of those accusations are being made by people who are jealous for one reason or another."
Viewed from a reductive standpoint, some of the people and places who rarely get whacked on thedirtmiami.com also have Empire connections. The blameless include inveterate party-givers Antonio Misuraca, Michael Capponi, Opium Group founders Eric and Frances Milon (Opium spokeswoman Vanessa Menkes declined to comment), and Jon Warech, a writer for People magazine and "411" columnist for the Miami SunPost.
Warech is an affable and witty fellow. Still, The Bitch had to ask him: Is it you?
"It's funny you say that, because everyone I ask swears it is you that writes the site," Warech says. "It's pretty insane how many people are talking about it. Every day I get calls with new theories as to who is behind [the Website]. But no, it's not me. What do you think of the whole thing?"
The Bitch was fortunate to visit the Miami City Club for the first and undoubtedly only time Wednesday, August 23, for the launch of the Havana Club, the power brokers' boite-within-a-boite on the 55th floor of the Wachovia Bank building on Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. The view from the club is just high enough that light refracted from the bay makes everything twinkly and magical. Indeed the hound would've been content simply to look out the windows had not a number of attractive nuisances presented themselves.
The first was when the Havana Club's surprisingly gentle, unconflated developer, Robert Katz, graciously presented his brother and business partner, Richard; City Club president Bonnie Crabtree; and Mayor Manny Diaz. Sounding genuinely awed, Katz told an assembled group of about 300 that "even about a dozen movie stars I can't really say who they are have become charter Havana Club members."
Before The Bitch could even form the thought Ocean's 13 launch party, Katz continued. "I'd also like to introduce some other city commissioners including, from the city of Miami Beach, Simon Cruz, and, the man who ... well, I'll just say, he'll always be my commissioner ... Johnny Winton!" Winton, near the podium, waved cheerily at the crowd with the hand that did not contain a beverage. But, oops! Beside the stage, the woman who is Katz's commissioner, Linda Haskins, paused in mid-ascent.
To his immense credit, Katz performed a deft real-time correction, recognizing Haskins and quickly changing the subject.
"We've got Paolo Garzaroli here from Graycliff Cigars," Katz segued. The Graycliff company, based in Nassau, presented the city dignitaries with a tasteful red leather box of pink- and blue-tube-covered stogies (swag that surely cost less than ten dollars). "And wouldn't it be great if we could ignore the fire code and light these up?" Katz plowed on. "What do you say, Police Chief John Timoney? Can we go for it?"
The Bitch nearly spilled her Diet Coke, so great was her haste to extract her tiny, wide-angle, Senior-Executive-Assistant-to-the-Police-Chief-Angel-Calzadilla-detecting digital camera from her pocket. Never one to miss an opportunity to uphold the law, self-proclaimed Bitch nemesis Timoney responded with a roared "Yeaahhh!" that echoed Lil Jon.
The Bitch, whose elaborate surveillance system failed to note the presence of Calzadilla, observed that the police chief seemed to have come across a supply of wild-cherry-flavor Hi-C or perhaps Kool-Aid, or maybe it was a healthfully berry-tinged cask of sugar-free Crystal Light. The chief law enforcement officer, resplendent in a mushroom-color tweed suit, quaffed several glasses of the liquid.
The Bitch noticed several agents speaking into their lapels and decided it would be a wise and law-abiding move to depart. On the way to the club's hushed marble foyer, the smoke-detecting hound passed by Garzaroli, who was fiercely guarding a table display of his wares. A blond thirtyish woman in a boxy, quilted, Chanel-ish suit picked up two of the cigars which seemed to be available for sampling purposes. Garzaroli, a small but exceedingly loud man with salt-and-pepper hair parted into devil horns, pounced: "Hey, how about asking? Are you stealing those cigars? Do you even smoke cigars? How about some manners?"
The woman, whom The Bitch was later able to identify as an actual City Club member, was clearly flummoxed, though she politely answered while handing the smokes back to the agitated Graycliff purveyor: "I don't smoke myself, but I thought my husband might like to try these...."
"You can have one. One cigar. There's only enough for people to have one, you understand?" Garzaroli shouted as the woman escaped. He was clearly enjoying his emerging role as the evening's star sociopath.
So The Bitch asked him for a business card; there was a large stack by the disappearing cigars. (She was fearful of extending her paw in that direction.) But he continued chomping. "Business card? I don't have business cards. When I got up this morning, I didn't even know I was coming here tonight. Do you always bring business cards when you have to go out of the country unexpectedly? No? I didn't think so."